For his second show at Sadie Coles HQ, Jonathan Horowitz takes the eternal city as his subject. Rome, as the keystone of western civilisation, becomes for Horowitz an all encompassing imaginary construct; the embodiment of the ideal society, the epitome of decadent society. By extension he considers its status as the model for totalitarian and democratic governments, from Napoleon to the US founding fathers, from Mussolini to Hitler.
Working across a variety of media, the exhibition centres on a new video, which weaves strands from documentaries about ancient Rome, Mussolini and the making of the movie Ben Hur, considered the greatest achievement of Hollywood epic cinema. The gallery will also house a Modernist monumental arch. Through this (re)construction Horowitz brings into focus the highly politicised role of Rome’s architecture; from the epic grandeur of its classical foundations through to Mussolini’s reprisal of this legacy of monument building, creating a whole fascist / modernist mini city, EUR, with its own Colosseum, St Peter’s and so on, which sought to re-imagine and reincarnate ancient Rome.
Horowitz highlights the pivotal role of architecture in government’s aspirations to stamp values on the cityscape and through the ‘changeable commemoration’ feature of his arch, he highlights the way in which architecture is created or retrospectively reconfigured to express political ideals. This anti-fascist monument / advertising hoarding hybrid, constructed from recycled plastic, throws into relief the opportunistic hijacking of visual signs to political sloganeering ends, manifested not least in the uneasy balance between the ‘Fascist style’ and modernism. Taking the iconic forms of antiquity - pillar, arch, idealized human form - and focussing on the overwhelming spectacle that defines the ‘Fascist style’, Horowitz questions its proximity to more generic trends in popular culture. Horowitz’s democratic use of readily available materials is in keeping with the everyman political spirit that lies behind the work. Here, as elsewhere Horowitz takes received values and images, prodding them, deflating them, and in so doing forcing us to reassess them.
Jonathan Horowitz was born in New York and continues to live and work in New York state. Horowitz has been included in numerous key exhibitions of recent years including, The Eighth Square: Gender, Life, and Desire in the Visual Arts Since 1960, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, 2006; Into Me / Out of Me, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY, 2006; Down by Law, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Realit;-)t. 30 Video Works from the Goetz Collection in Munich. From Olaf Breuning to Sam Taylor-Wood, Seedamm Kulturzentrum, Pfaffikon, Switzerland, 2005; Superstars: From Warhol to Madonna, Kunsthalle Wien and Kunstforum Wien, Vienna, Austria, 2005; 100 Artists See God, ICA, London, 2004; Genealogies of Glamour: The Future has a Silver Lining, Migros Museum, fur Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland, 2004